Amazon has introduced a new smartphone that will tie to the products and services it sells, while adding such touches as the ability to show images in 3-D.
The Fire phone will share many characteristics found in other Amazon devices, such as the home screen having a carousel of recently accessed apps. There will also be X-Ray for supplemental content and Mayday, which is Amazon’s live tech support.
Unfortunately, Amazon is arriving late to a hugely contested marketplace. According to IDC, Samsung and Apple dominate smartphone sales with a combined 46 percent share. In the U.S., Apple leads with more than 37 percent and Samsung is at nearly 29 percent.
Amazon has tried to usurp Apple's top position in the tablet market with its Kindle Fire HDX tablet, which beats the iPad Air's screen resolution and is lighter and cheaper. But the iPad still dominates the category while Amazon has seen its market share shrink from 7 percent in 2012 to 2 percent in the first quarter of 2014. As the phone was announced in Seattle, Amazon's stock rose $8.82, or 3 percent, to $334.44 in afternoon trading.
Here's a look at the new phone:
SPECS AND FEATURES:
— With a new Firefly feature, snap a photo of a book title, and it'll show you where to buy it. Listen to a song playing in the background, and it'll direct you to that tune on Amazon. It can even direct you to knowledge, such as pulling up a Wikipedia entry on a painting you snapped. The feature will also let you snap bar codes, phone numbers and more.
— The phone is smaller than leading Android phones, but larger than Apple's iPhone. CEO Jeff Bezos says the screen is ideal for one-handed use, measuring 4.7 inches diagonally.
— Bezos says it has image stabilization to counteract shaking as people take shots. Amazon is offering unlimited free storage on its Cloud Drive service.
— The phone will come with earbuds that have flat cords and magnets to clasp them together, so no more tangled cords.
— Bezos says images are typically flat — and Amazon wants to change that. You can rotate the phone around and get a different view depending on your angle of vision. He says the phone is basically redrawing the image 60 times per second. Bezos calls this "dynamic perspective." To make that happen, the phone has four front-facing infrared cameras to tell where your head is, even if your fingers cover two of them.
— There's an auto-scroll feature that lets you scroll down by tilting the phone. Samsung's Galaxy phones have this feature as well.
— The Kindle tablets run a highly modified version of Google's Android system, and it's likely an Amazon phone would do the same. That means apps for the phone would be limited to what's available through Amazon's app store. The store has grown to include more than 240,000 apps, but there's a lot more for Android and Apple.
— AT&T will be the exclusive carrier for the new phone. It's a similar approach to what Apple did when it unveiled its first iPhone in 2007. AT&T had exclusive rights to the iPhone in the U.S. until 2011, when all other carriers others got it too.
— The phone will be available July 25. People can start ordering them Wednesday at $200 for a base model with 32 gigabytes and $300 for 64 gigabytes. Both require two-year service contracts.
— The phone comes with 12 months of Prime membership, which is normally $99 a year. Existing Prime members will get their term extended.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.